Tag Archives: work life balance

Part time work. Kellie’s story

Kellie is a teacher and mum to Kiara, nearly seven and Tia, four.  Today she’s continuing our series on part time work.

About 3 months after having Kiara, I returned to work as a teacher half time where I worked I worked 3 days one week and 2 the next. I felt out of the loop at work on two days week so increased to three days after about  a term.

I then changed schools so went back to full time- and was pregnant again by the end of that year. When Tia was born, I opted for three days a week again, having Mondays and Fridays off.

When I changed schools when Tia was two, I was asked to work four days a week and I was not ‘allowed’ to reduce my fraction of time until 1/2 way through Term 1. I worked four days a week for the next 25 school weeks. And have been working full time since.

Unfortunately my current school principal has grown children interstate and eats, sleeps, drinks, and breathes work and just doesn’t understand the way other principals I have worked with seemed to. I also get dinner time and late night or early morning calls about work. Aargh!!

My employer definitely got ‘free work out of me’ when I was being paid to work four days a week. I would take my Friday load home with me, only to return to post it notes all over my office door, computer, chair, pigeon hole and what seemed like everyone wanting to “just catch up with me for a minute”!! That usually turned out to be a minimum of 7 minutes.

My pay decreased but my load was the same. I was doing my full time job with less pay- which was partly when I made the decision to return to full-time.

In the past I changed my work time and patterns according to how I felt I was going! I think teaching is a perfect career for part-time work, especially when you can share a class with another mum. They understand and don’t mind swapping days when appointments have to be made on work days. It’s truly sharing the load. 🙂

I loved working three days a week. I loved the fact I could be a mum and a professional.

I could do my work at work, my mum and home stuff on my days off and weekends were time for all of us without the thought and stress of washing, ironing, cleaning etc.

Tia particularly loved my days off last year. She said only today, “We don’t have Fridays together anymore do we mum, cos you have to go to work now.”  She shook her head “All cos of those naughty kids!”

I often spent my Friday afternoon helping out in Kiara’s classroom. She loved that.

I am sure they will never thank me for going to work, earning money and buying them ‘things’. They have and still do, thank me for the time and things we do together. That is worth way more to me than any pay I have ever received. ❤

Luckily for us mum and dad live close by and are happy to help out with caring for our girls. This enabled me to return to work, knowing my babies were being loved and looked after.. I knew they would be cuddled if they were sad, upset, hurt, sick or just because any of them wanted to.  Now Mum and Dad drop Kiara at school and Tia at kindy. And I know the same 🙂

My day off last year did fit with Mum and Dad having a day to themselves, which they spent it volunteering for Meals on Wheels.

I understand why those that have family looking after their kids say they are not they would have gone back if I had to put my kids into childcare centre.  This is true for me but I didn’t have to think differently, so I’ll never know!

I have friends who say the same about leaving their kids with family rather than childcare!!

It’s never perfect. I beat myself up mentally for EVERY thing I think I miss- assembly, concert, sports day excursions… Or when they are sick and I can’t stay home. I do the same when Tia is having a ‘mum I just want you day’.

When work creates the pressure, I just  get to the work things when I can, prioritize! I am very organised at work, and work hard.  I leave home at 7:15am, drop the girls at mum and dad’s place, then drive 45 minutes to work. Sometimes when I get there ‘people’ want to give me a hard time about arriving at 8:30am, which is when I am officially supposed to start. I get the same sort of reaction if I leave at any time between 4:30 and 5:00pm – which is not very often! The Department of Education says we can leave from 4pm onwards except staff meeting night which is 5pm, so this is pretty unreasonable.

Three days a week with Monday and Friday off was ideal.  I loved the fact I could be a mum and a professional…. My perfect solution!

Do you think employers get lots of ‘free work’ from mums who work part time?

Have you voted in our poll on part time work yet?

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Part time work. Juliet’s story

Juliet Hudson is a mum to Ruby, six and Charlotte, four.  She works in marketing four days a week.  Today she shares her tips on part time work with us..

I know that for many working mums the sum of the parts don’t always add up. But I believe I’ve got it pretty good. Working part time, four days a week, in a role that’s interesting and has super-flexible work conditions. Stress levels are really low and I get to spend quality time with both children.

We moved to Australia on a dream of cutting back work hours and stress to enjoy an easier lifestyle. But with a three and one year old, no support network and a husband still working long hours, there was only one solution – return to work, at any cost!

My goal was to work fewer than the 40+ hours I was accustomed to, which would mean I could do at least some things well rather than lots of things badly.

Here are my tips on what to look for in a part time job.

1. Don’t take just any job

Despite holding down a senior role before becoming a mum, finding a part time job a was actually not as easy as I thought it would be.  The first recruiter I saw said that because I was a mum returning to work I should expect to return to a much more junior level for longer hours!  She promptly sold me an awesome marketing assistant role in dog food with a one hour commute each way!

2. Set your criteria for success and stick to it

Don’t convince yourself that dog food is a good thing.  For me, a job has to be easily reached by foot or public transport, be three – four days a week, and have flexible start and finishing times. The work must be interesting, be in the area of health and offer development opportunities.

3. Number of days and total family wellbeing

I originally focused on three days allowing two days at home when the girls were home. This year only one day off is taken up with mumming and the other day off I have to myself – a blissful pleasure. Next year both girls are at school so five days is a real option. And for the right job, I’d seriously consider more hours. But I’m definitely convinced that five is too many and three – four days is best for our total family’s wellbeing.

4. Accept that often the numbers just don’t add up. 

We don’t qualify for any childcare tax rebates. When the girls were younger, there were no places available at any of our local childcare centres so we hired a full-time nanny on the days I worked. When all my work related costs were added up, I barely break-even. Now we have an after-school nanny so the hard yards cost-wise are done!

5. That goes for hours vs. pay too.

Often my hours at work exceed hours paid, and my employer definitely benefits. I enjoy my work and take pride in doing a good job. I’m happy to do what’s required to ‘get the job done’. After all, I often worked overtime in my full-time employment. I have received some holiday time in lieu for extra workload. It’s important to agree the scope of a part time role and review regularly with your manger. Occasionally I agree to working extra days for the extra cash, but usually only for a set period of time.

6. Childcare has to be viewed as a fixed cost.

It’s a cost of living that we factor into our joint household budget much like electricity and weekly food shop.

7. Talk through and agree finances with your partner. Getting the monthly budgeting sorted is essential.

There just has to be some $funds available for your own reward and pleasure, no matter how small.

8. Being in control 

For me this means smiley happy people at home, having a  100% capable and reliable nanny/afterschool care, having a hands-on partner, being home in time for book, bath, bed routine, having food in the fridge, having some real down-time, keeping up personal exercise and social calendar and completing major work projects well.

9. It’s about quality time not quantity time for myself and for the family

I’m definitely a happier mum and a happier partner for working part time. The girls understand that I will attend the really important school dates but not every school event – there are a lot! They’re fine with that. It also means that after four days at home, I’m rearing to get into the office. Thursdays are date night when I meet up with my partner after work (Like we did in the good old days) for an adult discussion, a drink and dinner.  And you just can’t beat a Friday at the beach with a book and coffee!

Juliet

Do these tips help you?  Do you have any others?  Don’t forget to vote in our poll!

The daily commute. Is there such a thing as Mummy Road Rage?

Do you ever sit in traffic and wonder whether your life would be easier if the trip to and from work didn’t take so long?

I do.

Every. Single. Day.

Every day I do the budget (time and money) for walking, cycling, bus + train and driving options.  I usully end up with driving, because the time part of the equation is such a precious one.  But I often wonder if there is a medical condition called Mummy Road Rage.

I imagine the typical sufferer of Mummy Road Rage is someone with kids in day care – one that charges by the minute when you are late.  They may be single or without family close by for backup.  Occasionally their boss asks them to work late, or an urgent project keeps them back a few minutes.  And then the race is on.  An accident on the route home or a day of heavy traffic can be a disaster.

I have occasionally diagnosed myself with Mummy Road Rage, and then wondered how many other cars are on the road with drivers in the same situation.  It’s possible there are millions of us.

It could even be a worldwide problem.  New research from the UK reports that three out of four mothers find the school run more stressful than going to work.

Ladies, I hear you.

Four in ten mums even admitted feeling sick at the thought of driving offspring to school.

In the context of our national debate on appropriately flexible day care, it does make you wonder whether, if our commute was easier and shorter, would it be as hard to find the right day care?

There are no easy answers, except for becoming one of The Jetsons and travelling to work like this.

Wouldn’t that be nice?

Does the commute make a difference to your daily routine?

Does it influence your decisions about child care?

Life as a Role Model

Mum.  Wife.  Daughter.  Manager.  Colleague.  Friend.

Most of us have lots of titles.

I am starting to realise another one I hadn’t yet included.  Role Model.

My daughter has just turned three.  Yes, it’s a delightful age. We’re just starting to experience her increasing ability to express herself, her burgeoning personality and she’s making her own friends for the first time.

She’s also learning a lot about the world around her.  She’s decided she must be married to her friend Oliver because most of the other people in her life come in heterosexual couples.  (Sorry about that friends whose families come in different shapes and sizes – we must have you over more often!)

She’s also assumed that my last name is the same as my husbands because hers is. (Umm, nope.)

I am also being asked to share any clothes she’d like to wear to play Working.

Playing Working means picking up my handbag, putting one of her father’s ties around her shoulders, and putting on a pair of my shoes.  She then picks up her keys and heads to the front door.

This is life as Miss 3 knows it.

It’s also the age when you start to wonder what she’ll be good at later in life;   whether she’s clever, what her strengths are.  Her language and emotional intelligence seem good, so maybe she’ll be a psychologist.  She seems a tad clumsy, so probably won’t be a professional tennis player.

I’m not too concerned about any of these, but I do want her to have confidence, friends and to always feel that she is loved.

And I am starting to realise how important it is for me to be a good role model to help these things happen.

When I go to the gym in the morning, I’m showing her that exercise is  important to me.  That I value being healthy and it makes me feel good. (I still love a cuddle in bed on the non-gym mornings though!)

When I go to work, I am showing her that women can be mummies and have a job too.  When I take a work phone call outside work hours, as frustrating as it is for both of us, I am showing her that other people value me, that my advice and support is needed by others.

When I have coffee with a friend, I am showing her I’m an individual with my own needs and preferences, just like her.

When Daddy and I go out for an evening, I’m showing her that Daddy and I have a relationship that is not always about her.  We go to dinner as a family too, but each of us makes time for a relationship one on one.

Until recently, all of these things made me feel guilty and torn between my roles as Mum and Worker  – and Working Mum was all I could be.

Accepting my job as a Role Model has not only relieved my guilt about two roles, but has created a bit more space for Wife, Daughter and Friend as well.

Kirsten

Do you see your life as a series of different roles for you to play?

Do you feel torn between them?

Birthday party tips for working mums

I did not bake this cake. My friend Shehana who has more kids and a more demanding job than me did.

It turns out I can organise a party with punch for three year olds.

Miss Nearly Three turns Three this week and I’ve been panicking about her birthday party since she first shared the guest list with me… nine months ago.

As soon as she’d blown the candles out on Grandma’s cake last July, she started asking me what would happen for her birthday.  I said we could have some friends over and eat cake, if she wished.

We’ve discussed it Every Single Day since.

Each time it’s been somebody else’s birthday, we’ve counted the months/days/weeks until hers, and discussed our plans.  After day care there is always a new best friend to consider.  Mummy and Daddy have come on and off the guest list depending on the number of Time Outs issued.  But the need for cake has been a constant.

Somewhat naively, about a month ago, I sat down with Miss Nearly Three and the Women’s Weekly Birthday Cake book.  I was inspired by my friend Shehana who posted the gorgeous work of art above on Facebook.  We had a lovely afternoon looking through cakes and working out which one we’d make for the big party.  And then I realised, I simply would not have time! I have not yet met a working mum with hours in her life for fabulously intricate baking.  Except Shehana, and I’m seriously thinking about defriending her on Facebook.

Fortunately, last week I read this great post from Mrs Woog at Kidspot, which helped me realise that many of the cool mums have learned to cut corners.

So here’s what worked for me.

Invitations

I did send out invitations, but since none of the kids can read, and I did it so late I had to text everyone anyway, I wondered why I didn’t just invite everyone by SMS?  Cheaper than a stamp, they have all the details ready to hand and a reply SMS means the RSVP is done too.

Food

This is a vexed issue.  Too much sugar and you’re the bad mum who rotted all the other kids’ teeth.  Not enough, and you’ve broken the kids’ hearts.  We opted for a fruit plate upon arrival, some store bought mini-muffins and a round of coffees for the parents, help yourself juice for everyone and a sausage sizzle.

The sausage sizzle was not my idea, but when we attended a birthday party for Miss Nearly Three’s friend Oliver last weekend it appeared to us as genius. Our local Woolies had packs of 24 sausages for less than $10. Plenty of food, something adults and kids love and by slicing the bread into triangle halves there was no need for plates.  Dishes done.

Numbers

Tips to remember in determining numbers for your toddler party.

  • DO NOT invite every small child mentioned in conversation over the previous nine months.  You do not need two dozen toddlers in your home.
  • DO NOT invite all of your adult friends with kids. You won’t get time to chat to them anyway, and kids in groups usually prefer ones close to them in age.  Others get left out or ignored.  Best see those friends one on one, like when you and your friends are having coffee and watching your differently-aged kids use a playground together.
  • DO NOT, under any circumstances, believe your child when she says that someone is her best friend.  This will change many times in the next few years, and almost immediately after you’ve finalised a guest list.
  • Reinforce the good decisions.  Remember to invite the parents you like and the kids you know your kid has enjoyed hanging with on several previous occasions.  Talk about how exciting it will be to see them constantly.
  • Above all, the rule about inviting the number of kids equal to your kids age seemed appropriate.  So we doubled it.

Toys

The most important thing we’ve learned, from previous hosting experience, is to PUT AWAY THE PUZZLES!  You will spend the next three weeks finding pieces wedged into your backside when you sit down to watch Grey’s Anatomy.  You know I speak from experience on this one.

So we left out a few larger toys but put all the good stuff in the backyard.  This worked on all the kids except for poor Sebastian, who remembered our paltry collection of Matchbox cars from a visit last December and spent the whole three hours looking for them.

Cake

I’m pretty sure that this was the highlight of Miss Nearly Three’s life so far. Even better than the zoo.  Even better than the time she convinced me to put the car window down so she could yell out when I’m at 80ks an hour, “You’ll never find my shoes now, ha ha ha!”  Yep, even better than that.

And it was all due to…. Michel’s Patisserie.

This is not the actual cake. There are only two pieces left of ours.

I realised a constant theme in the ever changing requests for cake was chocolate, so we went to Michel’s, flicked through the pictures and made a selection. Princesses of course. Only one day’s notice needed. The downside was that the one we wanted wasn’t available online as promised, so I needed some help to get to the shop.  Annoying for working mums Michels!  More expensive than homemade, but hours and  hours of my life bought back.  The kids loved it.

Last night, as I was patting a ridiculously over-tired little girl off to to sleep, she threw her arms around me and said, “Mummy thank you for my party.  It was the best party ever.”

Mission accomplished.

Working mums think dads get a raw deal

According to a survey of 365 working parents in the UK, almost two thirds of working mums think men are discriminated against with regard to flexible working arrangements.

According to a Workingmums.co.uk survey for International Women’s Day,  65% felt men were not given a fair hearing over flexible working.

The survey also found that;

  • 43% felt they did over 75% of the domestic chores and childcare.
  • Around 40% of working mums had taken a step back in their career since having children.
  • Only 29% had progressed in their career.
  • The rest had stayed at the same level

Women were concerned about the lack of flexible new jobs. A third felt trapped in the job they went on maternity leave from because they could not find a new job which gave them the work life balance they needed. A massive 89% had considered working for themselves to get a better work life balance, although 43% said they couldn’t afford to.

Meanwhile, in Australia, the union movement is currently conducting an independent inquiry into insecure work in Australia.

The inquiry website tells us that;

The last two decades in Australia has seen a dramatic decline in permanent work, and corresponding growth of insecure forms of employment, such as casual, contract work and labour hire.

The full extend and impact of this shift on workers, their families and the Australian community has never been formally investigated.

The inquiry will report its findings to the Australian Council of Trade Unions Congress in 2012, along with recommendations on measures that can be taken to address any problems that are identified.

Do you think dads miss out due to inflexible working arrangements?

Has having children affected your career?

What would you like to see the inquiry recommend?

You can read submissions to the inquiry and see what others are suggesting here.

Great Australian based website Careermums has great information on how to have the ‘flexibility conversation’ with a new employer here.

Victoria Beckham – not miserable, just a tired working mum

Most working mums probably don’t think they have much in common with Victoria Beckham, but over the weekend she was called upon to explain her fatigued appearance at Fashion Week

I’ve never really wanted to look like Victoria, but I do wish I looked like this when I was fatigued:

* With thanks to xposurephotos.com

As the Posh one herself explains:

I’m not going to lie about it, I’m tired. I’m really tired but I’m also very happy with my life.

In another interview she said:

“Being a working mum is hard – I think women can relate to me when I say it’s like juggling glass balls.

Sound familiar?

You can read more about what Posh is up to and why the latest Spice Girls reunion rumours are wrong at The Daily Mail